A few days ago, I emailed this “The Last Night You Were 4” letter to my daughter. She has an email address waiting for her to grow up, full of pictures, stories, cute sayings and letters like this.
On the last night you were 4, I did something strange you may not yet understand (wait ’til you’re a mom). But watching you turn 5 is strangely hard. It marks the end of your preschool days. You are now my little girl instead of my baby. On the last night you were four, I cradled you in my arms in your nursery rocking chair. Your legs draped over my lap and onto the floor. Your head took up roughly the same amount of space your entire body did the day we first met you.
I read to you the first book I ever bought for you and had read to you every visit in the NICU the first week of your life,”Guess How Much I Love You.” Then I read, “On the Night You Were Born.” Both books speak to the precious, precious gift you are to me, to our family. Then we said your prayers, and I tucked you in. I gave you just a few extra hugs and snuggles and walked out of the room, trying not to be overly dramatic.
But at midnight, as you turned five soundly sleeping, I tiptoed to your bedside. I scooped you into my arms and nuzzled my cheek next to yours. I listened to your sweet, still babyish noises of half words and sighs. I smelled your hair fresh from the bath, and kissed your velvet cheek. I whispered, “Happy Birthday” as tears sprang to my eyes.
I will never get back a single moment of your infancy, those rushed and panicked days when I was just learning who you are. I will never get back those first steps videotaped on a broken camcorder. I will always remember that you learned to run on vacation, making circles around Grandma’s house, pajama pants on your head.
I will never again, hear your first word. Babies all say da da da. Does that count as Dad? Very young you mimicked ‘bye’ to everyone’s surprise when I dropped you off at daycare, but didn’t start a trend of talking. You were my quiet girl,
Until you weren’t. Now we can’t get you to be quiet most of the time. You tell everyone how to drive, which is hilarious and infuriating. You want to know everything about everything. And I love it, even when it wears me out. You make me tell you stories over and over.
I miss holding you on my chest while you napped. I spent months (it feels like) letting you rest on me. I knew it was fleeting, that it would go too fast, and tried to memorize the weight of you on my left shoulder, the sound of your tiny snores, and your angelic sleep face.
I already miss the silly ways you would say things. I’m struggling to hold onto them as you start maturing. You still say pasketti and hosipal and yogrit, but baboon for balloon faded years ago. I don’t want to hold you back, just treasure each tiny part of your being tiny just a little longer.Dear Daughter, I don't want to hold you back, just treasure every moment a little longer. Click To Tweet
I watch you playing softball and see you starting to pull away towards your friends just a little bit. But I still leap for joy when you race towards me like I’ve been gone weeks, but it was only an hour. Your tiny hand grows in mine imperceptibly slowly everyday, so I hold it as often as you will let me, even when you’ve been playing in the red dirt of the ball diamond, compounded by sticky fruit snacks.
You are beautiful in so many ways: the way you have one curl of stubborn hair in the middle of your forehead that refuses to be tamed or grow, the way your eyes sparkle when you really smile and laugh, the way your heart is full of love and kindness for others.
You are already not my baby anymore, and I’m trying to be OK with that. I’m not really, but I also love the new level of conversations we can have. I love watching you tackle a task that used to be daunting and conquer it with ease. You don’t need me quite so much in the minutia, but will randomly get “stuck” in a shirt that is too tight around the sleeves. I think you sometimes ask for help because you like knowing I’m there to help just as much as I sometimes still like to be asked. Sometimes, I think you’re just trying to avoid going to bed.
On the last night you were 4, I was grateful.
Grateful beyond belief that you were alive to turn five, healthy and strong, smart and powerful, creative and kind. It was bittersweet to welcome in a new era of childhood, one of more independence for you and more letting go for me, but I couldn’t imagine wishing for anything more than getting to be your mom on this journey.The last night you were 4 was bittersweet, torn between old memories and new adventures. Click To Tweet
I have things I would do differently if I could do them over. Remind me to hold you close and listen to your hurts when, as an adult, you remember my less than stellar moments, but since time travel isn’t actually possible (despite your fascination with the subject), I can’t go back and have a do-over. Instead, I keep trying to get it better next time. Yet, as you keep changing, I have to keep learning a new set of rules, a new way to love you.
Which is hard because part of me will always see that teeny tiny little bitty in the NICU when I look at you, even when you turn 40 because that is what moms do.
And watching the clock change, the calendar turn as you went from 4 to 5, made me realize that no matter how hard I try, I can’t really hold on to every memory. They start to fade and slip away out of my conscious mind, but every one is etched into my heart.
I have never known a person more intimately and completely than I know you. I can’t wait to see what 5 has in store for you. I love you all the way up to the moon and back, sweet girl and have since the night you were born.